As one of the Steering Committee members of the California Climate Equity Coalition, along with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), The Greenlining Institute, Public Advocates, and SCOPE, we organized the second annual statewide convening in Oakland on October 14th to gather insights on the equitable implementation of climate investments and prioritize advocacy for the next fiscal year. Over 100 advocates from organizations and community-based groups from across the state, as well as agency staff, attended the convening, “Winning with Equity: Evaluating and Advancing California’s Climate Investments.”
Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez started us off with his opening remarks and set the tone for the day by sharing the story behind the success of AB 1550, which he authored and which the Coalition worked tirelessly on. AB 1550 builds on the success of SB 535 (de León, 2012) to ensure that more climate investments go to disadvantaged communities (DACs), as well as low-income households and communities. Assemblymember Gomez finished by encouraging participants to be creative and think big in developing priorities for next year’s advocacy.
After the morning keynote, we heard an overview of the Coalition’s work and priorities over the past year, including working on the state budget process to ensure that the programs and projects benefiting DACs are receiving the funds that they need to be successful. We then had a very informative panel highlighting the on-the-ground experiences of various community-based organizations and non-profits that applied and were awarded Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) grants.
Panelists stressed the importance of genuine community partnerships during the grant application process and project implementation. It was recommended that implementing agencies should coordinate applications for various GGRF programs and not work in silos. It was also suggested that agencies need to release more data to the public on benefits of the climate investments at the local level.
We also heard about various exciting and very informational research findings from the Liberty Hill Foundation, TransForm, Public Advocates, and the Urban Displacement Project. This panel discussed measuring benefits, community engagement and anti-displacement in programs being funded by the GGRF. One theme that stood out is that in order to achieve true community inclusion during the design and implementation of projects, agencies need to do more than just outreach and engage communities. Agencies should foster partnerships with communities, and ideally those communities should have leadership roles in the process.
We finished the first half of our convening by breaking out into groups based on the priority programs that the Coalition is working on: Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities; Transformative Climate Communities; Urban Forestry and Urban Greening; Low Carbon Transportation; Low-Income Weatherization ; and Public Transit. Each break-out group shared guidelines, application process and implementation updates, and participants were able to directly ask questions to agency staff.
During lunch, Vien Truong, Director of Green for All, shared personal stories and pointed to the successes of California on climate policy and investments as an example for the rest of the country.
A key aspect of the convening was to provide a space for advocates to discuss next year’s advocacy priorities in depth. During the afternoon, various groups discussed the political viability, strategies and tactics, and advocacy contributions for: 1) New programs (Transformative Climate Communities, Urban Greening); 2) GGRF budget; 3) Maximizing jobs and other co-benefits in climate investments; 4) AB 1550 implementation; and 5) Agencies meaningfully engaging communities. The new knowledge, connections and ideas to advance our collective effort were truly inspiring.
We thank everyone who joined us during the second annual convening of the California Climate Equity Coalition, and made it a huge success. We look forward to working together to ensure that the communities that are hit first and worst by air pollution and climate change benefit from the state’s climate investments.